Favorites of 2019! (Late, but I’m a month behind on the new year.)

Hi, this is me outdoing myself on being late. I’m finally getting around to posting the “Favorites of My Favorite Little Things in 2019” list I’d planned on doing since December. Since 2020 just began for me when I made it back to the gym at the beginning of February, I’m finally here with the list!

The biggest part of the list is the products section, because I discovered quite a few holy grail, ride-or-die products in 2019. You’ll find that at the bottom of the list; I’m presenting these favorites in the same order I always do in my “favorites” lists: movies, series, food, products.

If you’re interested, take a look at my favorite “little things” of 2019!

Top three favorite theater movies: 
Parasite (October)
Joker (October)
Ford v. Ferrari (November)

In total, I saw nine movies in theaters in 2019. My top three favorites were the three I went to see in the fall.

Midsommar’s  artistic merits deem it top-three worthy, but Midsommar being Midsommar, its excellence made it unbearable for me. A cheesier, less deftly handled production may have made it more watchable. As it is, even the trailer still sends me into a panic. Why do I keep going back to watch the trailer?! There are scenes in the trailer that don’t even appear in the movie! Also, the trailer gives nothing away; one is in no way prepared for Midsommar’s atrocities after watching the trailer. I think it’s the music, the sound of the string instruments in the trailer that freak me out. Why am I rambling on about Midsommar when it’s not on my list? Ugh.

Moving on…

Favorite of the few movies I watched at home:
Train to Busan (Netflix). It’s now my favorite zombie film.

Favorite streaming T.V. series:
From Netflix: You, Dead to Me, Love, Death + Robots, After Life, and La Casa De Papel
From Hulu: Reprisal
From Amazon Prime Video: Fleabag and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Favorite athletic event:
The May 2019 Grand Sumo Tournament (Natsu Basho) Grand Sumo Highlights. This was the tournament in which Tochinoshin, my favorite wrestler, earned back his Ozeki rank.

 

World-class sumo wrestler Tochinoshin (Levan Gorgadze of Georgia)

 

Favorite miscellaneous project to watch:
Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty Show (Amazon Prime Video)

Favorite processed food discoveries:
Birch Benders Plant Protein Pancake and Waffle Mix
Crunchy/toasted chickpeas with sea salt
Vega Protein Nutrition Shakes (especially the chocolate one)

Favorite skincare/cosmetic product discoveries*:
Earth Science Creamy Fruit Oil Cleanser A-D-E
Acure brightening facial scrub
Nourish Organic Lightweight Moisturizing Face Lotion
Schmidt’s Bergamot and Lime Natural Deodorant**
e.l.f. Radiant Gel Lip Stains
e.l.f. 16HR Camo Concealer
NYX Bare With Me Tinted Skin Veil
Jason Powersmile Anti-Cavity and Whitening Gel

*All vegan and cruelty-free

**I’d put a different deodorant as a favorite on December’s list, and it was my new favorite… until I developed an allergic reaction to it. I had to toss it. I picked up another of the Schmidt’s, and I’m glad to be using it again. It works fine, and I love its bergamot and lime scent! I probably won’t deviate from it again.

Favorite random little thing:
Bat birthday card (by Brace)

 

Bat birthday card by Brace

 

I don’t know what it is about this card. No one gave it to me. I came across it and I had to have it in my life and so I got it and it still makes me inexplicably happy. The front reads, “It’s when you can’t hear the bats, that’s when the bats are coming.” The inside reads, “Other than that, I have no birthday advice.”

On that note, I’ll bid you a happy rest of your day or night. I hope 2020 is off to a great start for you!

 

 

Midsommar: you don’t go to frolic. (A review, of sorts. No spoilers.)

On Sunday, we went to the movies anticipating a good scare, because we thought we were about to see a normal horror flick. But that plan didn’t turn out the way I thought it would. Nothing about Midsommar turned out the way I thought it would. Midsommar is a film that does things to you. Leaving the theater, it was more “what just happened to me?” than “what did I just see?”

There’s horror, and then there’s Midsommar.

 

 

Writer/director Ari Aster (Hereditary) and independent film distributor A24 bring us a masterpiece of psychological horror in Midsommar. One needs to be somehow mentally prepared to see it. Don’t look to the trailer for help with this, because the “scary” parts aren’t even in it. Midsommar is disturbing to the extreme. For me, it was an unsettling and inexplicably compelling visceral experience.

A group of four American friends travel to Scandinavia at the invitation of a fellow student at the university. He’s from Sweden, and he’s spoken of a special summer festival held in his small community back home. The festival takes place only once every 90 years! Cultural anthropology doctoral candidates can’t pass it up, can they? Especially considering that they’re still wavering on where to train their focus in their graduate studies. An ancient festival in Sweden, now, that would be different. One of the students has a girlfriend suffering in the aftermath of a tragic event; she tags along, desperate to hang onto her caring yet ambivalent boyfriend.

And so we’re all shepherded to Sweden by our congenial Swedish student friend. He’s happy to take us on this trip to experience the festival… and a trip, it is.

I’m leaving by the wayside any attempt at sounding intellectual in this review, because I’m not an expert reviewer, and it’s difficult to characterize how I felt from the time the Americans reached Sweden. Having made this disclaimer, I can say that once the group arrived at the festival in all its isolated, bucolic splendor, it was just WTF piling on WTF slowly and steadily throughout the rest of the film. Midsommar is a true WTF-fest. By the end of the movie, I felt pinned to my seat beneath the weight of a WTF stone tower, each stone heavier than the last. If I needed the restroom during this movie, I couldn’t feel it. Midsommar is completely immersive, and that is one of its horrifying strengths.

In Midsommar, Ari Aster seeded the horror in the atmosphere of the setting; from there, he grew and cultivated it with methodical precision. Simple acoustic music played by festival hosts takes the shape of a voice that serves as much as a character as the actors. Skillful usage of foreshadowing and symbolism help the film to burrow under the skin. There are no jump-scare cheap thrills in this film.* An early scene in which the group is driven through the Swedish forest to the festival is presented upside-down. This bit of symbolism sets the tone for the rest of the movie as standard horror conventions fly out of that upside-down vehicle’s window.

We are in Sweden in the summer. Our tendency is to think of horror unfolding in the dark, but Midsommar is horror unfolding in a place that never gets dark.

Elsewhere in the horror genre, we might experience the horror of, say, a haunted house. In Midsommar, we experience the horror of nature in a peaceful, Scandinavian countryside.

Midsommar robbed me of some pedantic horror-movie joys: a few things happened that I guessed would happen, but I couldn’t take satisfaction in guessing correctly, because the events played out in ways more twisted than I could have imagined. I was too traumatized to be smug.

That’s the thing about this film. Even if you know what f*cked up thing is about to happen, you can’t believe what you’re seeing as it’s happening. The happening is more horrific than the thing, itself.

Another of Midsommar’s strengths is that it’s horror that could occur in real life. You think, this could happen. Then you dare think, maybe it does.

I’ve spent the past few days recovering from this nightmare film, and yet I’m sitting here recommending it. As disturbing as it is, Midsommar is impressive and beautifully wrought. The writing, direction, and acting are superb. It’s a fine work of indie art, as we’d expect from A24.

When we stopped at the store after the movie, I made my way through the aisles feeling disoriented and panicky. I was jumpy and irritable. You would’ve thought I was in Costco, not Whole Foods! Everything freaked me out: interactions with people in the store. The color white. The flowers for sale. My inability to find an item that I needed. The cashier handing me the receipt.

I saw runes everywhere, in everything. I still do. It’s chilling to the core.

I don’t know whether a film this macabre, graphic, and psychologically disturbing can be an Academy Awards contender, but if it can, Midsommar deserves nominations. The big ones all apply: writing, acting, directing, cinematography, musical score, costumes, editing.

If you’re up for the challenge and thrill of psychological horror, go see Midsommar in the theater! You need the theater to optimize the immersive experience of it. I would recommend that you see it in any case. It’s an excellent film. It’s an experience. As the tag-line says, let the festivities begin.

*****

*Don’t get me wrong – I do enjoy carefully placed cheap-thrill jump scares!